11 Years in the life of a Larch


While working on this chuhin larch today, I thought I would take a look at some old photographs of it, to remind myself how it has developed in the time it has been in my care.

This first picture was taken in 2005 about one year after I acquired it.


Until 2011, when the next picture was taken, it was mainly a case of clip and grow to keep it in shape


Late autumn 2012, the tree is in its’ current pot and some of the lower branches have been removed to give the tree a lighter appearance


A year later in 2013, it is beginning to fill out


And today in July 2016, It’s just about as good as it will ever be and it’s one of my favourite trees



Lanarkshire Bonsai Club Meeting 12/6/2016

Yesterday I attended the monthly meeting of the Lanarkshire Bonsai Club at Wattston Bonsai. It was a busy day with lots of people passing through the workshop. Some of the members were involved in a number of seasonal tasks including defoliation of deciduous species and the re-potting of trees that respond better to this process when the weather is a little warmer.Here are a few pictures that sum up the day.

Gordon and Stuart discussing a larch.


Dougie and re-potting a juniper with Maurice looking on.


Gordons’ White Pine


Dougies’ defoliated trident over rock


Maurices’ re-potted juniper in a new Bigei pot.


A Great Way to Spend an Evening

Its rare in my experience that I get the opportunity to visit the garden of a fellow bonsai enthusiast. This week was an exception as Sauro, a friend from Glasgow, invited me over to see his extensive collection of trees and pots. Sauro, like myself, has a passion for smaller trees. Here are a few photographs of some of the trees that caught my attention. Apologies for the quality of some pictures, this was due to the strong evening sunlight.

Sauro on the right and Gordon on the left enjoying the evening sun.


An overview of the garden


Shohin white pine with a lichen covered trunk


Twisted trunk scots pine, these are a speciality of Sauro.




Cork bark black pine








This larger semi cascade scots pine was styled over the winter by Bjorn Bjorholm, no less


Sauro’s dog Max, a poodle with attitude.


Many thanks to Sauro for a terrific evening and to Margaret for a lovely meal.

Final Preparations for the National Show

It’s been a busy week collecting moss and carrying out the final preparation of my trees for the Scottish National Bonsai Show tomorrow. Fortunately the weather has been kind and we are enjoying sunshine and warm temperatures at the moment.


Here are some pictures I took this morning of the trees and accents I will be taking with me.

Chuhin Japanese Larch


Shohin trident maple in a pot by Eimei


Shohin Deshojo maple in a yellow Shibakatsu pot


Cotoneaster in a pot by Eimei


Zelkova Serrata in a pot by Ikkou Watanabe


Hinoki Cyprus in a pot by Hokido


2 Pinus Parviflora in Bigei pots


Sedum Spathufolium Capa Blanca in a pot by Junsun Yamamoto


Saxifrage in a Suteki accent pot by Simon Haddon


Getting Together between Hail Storms

If last weeks’ get together was on one of the hottest days of the year then yesterdays’ must be one of the coldest we’ve experienced, with hailstones the size of peas pounding our heads and our trees throughout the afternoon.

Having said that; between the showers there was some pleasant sunshine and we did manage to get some productive work done on Gerry’s trees. Most of the day was spent evaluating Gerry’s pre-bonsai stock Trees like the larch you see in the next picture, which were acquired a few years ago with the intention of growing them on to produce shohin trees.


We decided that many of the branches coming off the short trunk on this tree were a little thick for shohin, so this and a few others were cut back quite hard in the hope that they will send out a lot of finer branches by the end of this year.


I was taken by this little crab apple which is coming into flower at the moment. It has only been a month since it was re-potted.


Same tree 1 month ago after re-pot


Here are some pictures of the trees on Gerry’s benches. Most of these were put back in the poly-tunnel by late afternoon to protect them from the storms.



Working on Air Layers

I have spent some time this week working on trees that were either air layered in the recent years or required to be air layered to improve he trunk line or the nebari.


I have had mixed success with this procedure in the past. Most of my failures were due to poor technique, a lack of experience or my own impatience. I have decided that this year I will attempt  a lot of air layers to improve my technique and increase my knowledge and experience on a wider range of species.

This little hawthorn, which didn’t have many roots when it was separated last year is looking very strong at the moment. Planting it deep in a clay training pot appears to have paid off with lots of new top growth. I will leave it in this pot for another year and take a look at the roots again next year. The post covering the separation can be viewed here .


The first to get my attention this year is this Japanese larch. When I was styling this tree over the winter, it struck me that the top could make a nice semi-cascade if the straight lower trunk could be removed. Larch are reputed to be difficult to air layer but not impossible. This is good material to experiment with. If I do nothing to this tree, it will probably never make a good bonsai but success with the air layer could improve its’ potential immensely.


In the next picture a ring of bark has been removed at the point where I would like the new roots to grow.


In the next picture, the wound is covered by a thick layer of sphagnum moss, which is held in place with bubble wrap and aluminium wire.


The next one to receive my attention was this little cotoneaster. It has similar problems to the larch. The lower trunk is very straight and has no taper. Air layering this tree could provide me with 2 better pieces of material to work on in the future.


And finally, for today, I thought I would give you an update on an air layer started last year and separated from the old rootstock today. It’s an Acer Shirasawanum Aurem. This is how it looked in the late summer of last year. It went into autumn colour very early and it was suggested that this might be related to the fact that it had air layering work done on it earlier in the year.45

It had produced roots by last autumn but I decided to wait until this spring before separating it.

This is how the new roots are looking at the moment.


It was sawn off just below the new rootball and tied into a deep pot without further disturbance of the roots. The rootball was covered in a loose mix of clay particles, ezo grit and akadama.


I gave it a good watering and it will be kept in a shaded corner of the greenhouse until it’s in full leaf.




Some Shohin Trees in Spring

Here are some recent pictures of the new spring growth in some of my shohin bonsai

2 hawthorns that were re-potted  a few weeks ago


This one was re-potted last year.


My shishigashira maple, always a joy at this time of year


This chojubai was severely root pruned in the 2 previous years yet it has started to flower earlier than ever this year


My buxus sempervirens grown from a cutting taken 14 years ago


Shohin larch in training for 2 years


And finally, a sneak peak at my improvised set up for taking these pictures in natural daylight between heavy showers.


Larches Coming to Life Again

My 3 chuhin larches, which were wired and re-styled at Christmas time, have re-awakened after their long winter slumber and are beginning to fill the greenhouse with the vibrant greens of spring. I prefer to keep them inside at this time as frosts can damage the soft new needles.


Major Re-Styling of a Japanese Larch

I bought this large larch bonsai a number of years ago. At the time and for several years after, it was the most expensive tree I had purchased. I was attracted by the its’ height, the movement in the trunk and the mature canopy of branches. After acquiring it, I embarked on an intensive period of study into the elements of good bonsai design. It wasn’t long before I began to see many faults in this tree that I hadn’t noticed before.

There is a slight nebari at the base of the trunk with some thick surface roots radiating outward on the top of the soil. This is one of the best features of the tree but when  viewed beneath such a tall trunk it looks insignificant. While the trunk has movement, it has a very poor taper; the central section is quite straight and bears the healed over scar of a previous owners attempt at carving. The branches, particularly on the apex, have become very thick and inflexible. This is a common problem with larches; you have to keep renewing the branches throughout the trees’ life to maintain their delicate proportion, Failure to do this will eventually result in a tree that has a winter image resembling a tightly pruned garden shrub. When I became aware of these faults, they were all that I saw when I looked at the tree. Something had to be done.


Last year I took the drastic action of chopping the top off this tree to start it again


During the summer I carried out some basic carving to take the stump back to the lowest branch



The single remaining branch was allowed to grow freely throughout the year and by the end of the season there was a lot of new growth to work with,


Today I finally found the time to complete the first styling in its new form. This is how it looks at the moment.


Now I think I have something I can live with and enjoy for some years to come.